Lake Oswego's Development Review Commission opened a public hearing this week about a proposed housing development adjacent to Hallinan Woods, but the meeting was extended to Sept. 17 after testimony ran late into the night.
The proposed development would subdivide the 2.08-acre property at the end of Yates Street into six parcels and build a house on each one, with most of the houses served by a private access road branching off from a small extension of Yates Street.
The project has been controversial due to the property's location next to Hallinan Woods. The site is undeveloped apart from a single abandoned house, and most of the existing property is forested but separated from the park by a chain-link fence.
A group of Hallinan neighbors have spent several years lobbying the City to purchase the Yates property and add it to Hallinan Woods. The advocates argue that the two properties are one contiguous wooded area and should be treated as such.
In particular, the neighbors have focused on a section of Hallinan Creek that passes through the southeast portion of the Yates property and a connected wetlands area that extends along its southern side. Advocates say the stream offers an important natural play and exploration area for children, especially given that Hallinan Elementary School is located nearby.
At the Sept. 5 meeting, several of the neighbors reiterated calls for the City to purchase the property and asked the DRC to deny the application outright, but most of the testimony focused on trying to preserve as much of the riparian area surrounding the stream as possible and to fight for it to be open to the public.
"Not having a fence along the pathway and keeping access to the creek would be the things that are most important to us," said McVey/South Shore Neighborhood Association Chair Jan Castle during public testimony.
The preservation of at least some of the riparian area is required by City code; the stream corridor is designated as an RP (Resource Protection) district, which calls for preserving 30 feet of riparian area on either side of the stream.
The proposed housing development reflects those restrictions by clustering all of the parcels on the northern and middle sections of the property, leaving the southern portion mostly undeveloped.
According to Senior City Planner Debra Andreades, applicants Raghunandan and Sangeeta Kamineni did request an adjustment to the edge of the RP zone in the southeast portion of the property in order to make it better fit with the proposed parcels; that request was balanced by increasing the riparian area on the southwest edge of the property.
Several of the neighbors objected to that request, arguing that it did not meet the criteria for an adjustment, including the requirement that the request must not be made for the purpose of maximizing development.
"The size of the lots could certainly be made smaller and still be practical," said acting Hallinan Heights Neighborhood Association Chair Sarah Ellison, who has also been one of the leaders of the group of neighbors fighting to expand the woods. "They're basically proposing a reduction right where (the riparian area) is needed most."
Ellison and others requested that the City secure an easement for public access to the creek and surrounding riparian area on both sides, and require a hedge screen between the creek area and the southern parcels or at least a maximum amount of buffer space and features.
There were also some objections raised about the rules for flag lots as applied to the development. Lake Oswego's code was recently updated to prohibit more than two flag lots branching off a single parent property, but the proposed development includes five flag lots branching off a single lot on Yates Street.
However, Andreades said work on the development project predates the adoption of the new rules, so the project is subject to the previous standard, which allowed up to eight flag lots behind a single lot.
Hallinan resident Donald Mattersdorff argued that the new parcels were not flag lots at all, because their access road branched off from the opposite side of Yates Street from the parent lot.
"They're simply not behind (the primary) lot," he said. "They're not behind anything with regard to Yates Street."
Some of the neighbors also asked the DRC to try to reduce the number of trees slated for removal; the application includes the removal of 27 trees to make room for the houses and street extension.
"It's clear that the wooded nature of the site would require a number of trees to be removed in any site configuration," Andreades said.
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